Reinventing Museums in a Broadband Environment by dfsdf224s

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                             Reinventing Museums in a
                              Broadband Environment
                                                Kenneth Kobus(*)
           he he Adler Planetarium            and Astronomy Museum, Chicago (IL), USA
                                          E-mail: kkobus@adlernet.org

ABSTRACT                                                           Broadband connectivity will expand the
Over the last ten years, the Adler                                 role of museums in formal education,
Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in                                allow the rich content of museums to be
Chicago has rebuilt its physical struct~~re                        delivered directly into the classroom,
from the ground up. During this time it                            supporting and enriching classroom
has also embarked on numerous parallel                             instruction.
endeavors to fully exploit this rebuilding
process electronically. These include the                          As we work to begin to fill the space
creation of an extremely capable                                   with meaningful content on an ongoing
electronic infrastructure, a very high-                            basis, we are finding that creating the
speed electronic connection to the                                 gallery has been the easy part, and that
outside world, and exploratory work in                             large-scale electronic content creation
displaying gallery content electronically.                         for a gallery like this has profound and
In     addition,     Adler's     education                         far-reaching implications for the staffing
department       was    reorganized      to                        and operation of the entire museum.
emphasize the creation of electronic
programs       and      content,     while                             KEYWORDS: Electronic, broadband,
partnerships with NASA and the                                         content-creation, bandwidth, visual
Department       of    Education      were                             display
established to create a center for space
 science education where all these efforts                             INTRODUCTION
 merge.                                                                Computers        and     comnlunication
                                                                       technology have had an immense and
Given the profound changes in the                                      far-reaching impact on many aspects of
museum world that relatively low-speed                                 museum       operation.    Given    the
Internet connectivity has fostered since                               tremendous impact that the Internet has
its inception, the Adler has embraced the                              already made at low connection speeds,
assumption that high-speed connectivity                                what impact might the ubiquitous broad
will be ubiquitous in upcoming years                                   bandwidth connectivity environment of
and that this levcl of connectivity will                               the near future have on museums?
profoundly alter the museum's role in
formal and informal education. In                                      The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy
informal education it will make possible                               Museum in Chicago has spent the last
galleries with exhib~tcontent changing                                 decade assembling the resources that
over time. allowing for new discoveries                                will allow us to begin to address that
to be addressed and a depth of content                                 question soon. This extended effort is
over the life of the gallery not possible                              about to cliniax in a unique new gallery
with traditional museum approaches.                                    that may shed light on a museum's role
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n a broadband future. In our so-far                            phase of reconstruction well underway
.imited experience we feel that the                            today: that of reinventing staff and
;ombination        of      high-speed                          programs via technology.
:ommunications and vastly powerful
Zomputers will have profound role-                             Internal Connectivity
changing implications in the ways in                           This       extensive         reconstruction
which museums function in the not-to-                          represented       an        unprecedented
  istant future.                                               opportunity that Information Systems
                                                               departments are rarely presented with.
IACKGROUND AND PREPARATION                                     We were able to design and build an all-
'he last ten years at Adler has seen a                         new information infrastructure from the
lurry of change unprecedented in the                           ground up. Fiber and category 5 coppcr-
lrevious sixty of the museum's                                 based, it's a massively capable network
xistence as the oldest Planetarium in                          designed to cany significant volumes of
he Western hemisphere.                                         traffic, most specifically video.

Iestruction and Construction                                     External Connectivity
n 1991 Dr. Paul Knappenberger was                               During roughly this same time period,
lamed as the Adler Planetarium's                                Adler partnered with a multi-university
)resident. Detennined to modernize the                          consortia whose aim was to provide
nstitution, he worked with staff to                             videoconferencing classroom instruction
:reate a long-range strategic plan that                         between member institutions regionally.
nandated the construction of a dramatic                         To reach this goal the consortia built a
lew all-glass exhibit wing wrapping 180                         private regional high-speed network for
iegrees around                                                  video and Internet traffic. Its initial
                                                                capacity was OC-3 or 155.52 megabits
he historic 12-sided original structure.                        per second, and this could be easily
Zompleted in late 1999 at a cost of over                        scaled up.
10 million dollars, this work also
ncluded extensive demolition and                                 The state of Illinois is in the process of
-enovations to the original building,                            building its own high-speed network to
:ssentially adding to and rebuilding the                         provide      connectivity      to    local
zntire museum from the ground up. An                             governments, hospitals, libraries, not-
zxciting                                                         for-profit institutions and 3,300+
                                                                 schools. Adler's university consortia
                                                                 network connects to this statewide
                                                                 network at high speed. Consortia
                                                                 member institutions therefore have
                                                                 direct and high-spccd access to these
                                                                 3,300+ schools as well as unlimited
                                                                 Internet bandwidth.
                                                                 Additionally this university consortium
                                                                 has been able to connect and/or apply to
                                                                 connect to regional and national high-
     Fig1: Front F a ~ a d e the Adler
                           of                                    speed experimental networks such as
              Planetarium                                        MREN and Abilene, and it's believed
                                                                 that this network could eventually serve
 opportunity for staff, this project set the                     as the regional NE Illinois next-
 stage for the next and more challenging                         generation Internet I1 backbone.
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Previous Conceptual Gallery Work                                We tested this simplc concept in a
Though we house one of the largest                              temporary exhibit that ran through late
collection of historical astronomical                           1999 and into early 2000: the "Mars
artifacts in the world, as an astronomy                         Exploration     Station".   It was a
museum our primary subject matter is                            representation of what a Mars colony in
current astronomical data rather than                           2030 might be like and it was part of the
obiects and artifacts. We need to be able                       federal government's Mars Millennium
to represent often abstract and obtuse                          initiative. We used 21-inch monitors for
concepts and data without the benefit of                        the graphic displays integrating any text
objects and artifacts, and in easily                            information into this same display,
understandable form. We also suffer                             eliminating the need for two computers
from a problem common to all                                    and two monitors per station. We also
museums: in the time it takes to design                         used obsolete computers to drive the
and build a permanent gallery,                                   stations as a cost-cutting measure. We
oftentimes at least some of the exhibit                         deployed seventeen of these stations
content is outdated by the opening and                           throughout the roughly 2,500 square
increasingly so throughout the life of                           feet of this modest exhibit, sharing
the gallery. Scientific advances occur                           space with non-computerized exhibit
with increasingly dizzying speed. One                            components. All the VisStations were
robotic explorer launched by NASA can                            set to work in a slowly-cycling slide-
turn decades of scientific knowledge on                          show       mode     with     interspersed
 its ear, wreaking havoc on the contcnt                          explanatory text. Astronomers and
 of traditionally-built galleries.                               educators were able to load and change
 Because of this rapid knowledge                                 content on the stations over the
 obsolescence we've explored at length                           network. The end result was that even
 the idea of representing galle~ycontent                         in      this     limited      low-budget
 electronically. Our original and simple                         implementation they were startlingly
 concept was to pair a large graphics                            effectivc as cxhibit display elements,
 computer display with a smaller text                             and the creation of exhibit content was
 computer display, both juxtaposed on a                           streamlined. Thc cxhibit lacked only
 museum wall. We termed this                                      more sophisticated computers and a
 combination        of     capabilities    a                      higher density of stations which would
 Visualization Station. VisStation for                            have really allowed for a truly
 short. The screens would be driven by                            compelling     visual    display.    Wc
 networked.              Internet-connected                       concluded that this relatively simple
 computers. The large screen would                                concept was one that we wanted to
 display graphic content and the small                            explore on a much larger scale.
  screen descriptive text regarding thc
  graphics, exactly analogous to static                           Staffing Reorganization
  illustrations and text boxes on museum                          After the completion of Adler's physical
  walls cverywhere. The advantage was                             demolition, construction and renovation,
  that this content could be changed or                           staff reorganization was begun to better
  reprogrammed       "at    a keystroke".                         match the capabilities of the new Adler.
  Additionally, the graphics screen could                         A       committee      composed       of
  be made to display numerous static                              representatives from the entire museum
  graphics in a slide Show mode or even                           plus outside experts worked at length to
  multimedia      presentations      if  the                      complete an education master plan. This
 computer were capable.                                           plan mandated the reorganization of
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Adler's education department into three                                  high-visibility public venue in the
areas: formal education, informal                                        Midwest. It will draw upon Adler's
education       and      technology-based                                extensive educational and technological
education. Though the argument was                                       resources to pilot new methods of
made      that    technology    was     an                               informal education for visitors in our
increasingly important component of                                      museum, as well as to reach worldwide
both formal and informal museum                                          audiences through distance-learning
education, the final consensus was that it                               programs that utilize broad bandwidth
needed to be initially emphasized by                                     technology. The establishment of this
segregation to jump-start the creation of                                NASA partnership also makes available
technology-based programs. A year of                                     to us the content and expertise of an
transition that included many staff hires                                extensive research and educational
and an almost complete department                                        community as well as the funding
turnover resulted in a vely new                                           necessary to create the center.
capability at our museum: professional
 educators whose job it was to create and                                Recap: the Big Picture
 develop     effective technology-based                                  To recap, the last ten years has seen the
 informal      and    distance    learning                               physical      facility   of    the    Adler
 programs.                                                               Planetarium expanded and rebuilt
                                                                         including the addition of a massively
    Innovative Education Programs                                        capable       electronic     infrastructure.
    Based on the changes and new                                         Partnerships       were     formed      that
    capabilities that were underway, a group                             connected Adler with very "wide data
    composed of educators, computer                                      pipes" to the rest of the world. Previous
    specialists and advancement staff met                                work on displaying Astronomy content
    over a ten-nionth period to explore the                              electronically in exhibits resulted in a
    potential of these hew capabilities in a                             simple but profound prototype exhibit
    distance-learning context. The end                                   display      concept.     Our     education
    result o f this effort was a detailed                                department staff was reorganized based
    distance-learning program that posited                               on a master plan which providcd for one
    the use of broad bandwidth technology                                third of the department to be responsible
    to enable a significant new proactive                                for creating and developing technology-
    role for museums in the formal                                       based distance learning programs. And
    educational process in schools, as well                               a partnership with NASA and the
    as the possibility of creating a                                     department of Education enabled Adler
    significant new revenue stream for                                    to fund the creation of a Center for
    museums. A pilot project based on this                                Space Science Education, within which
    work will be described in detail later in                             all of the above will come together.
    this paper.
                                                                           THE ADLER CENTER FOR SPACE
    NASA and Department of Education                                       SCIENCE EDUCATION
    Partnership                                                            ACSSE will provide infrastructure and
    Recently, the Adler was awarded a                                      links between the research community
    nearly $3 million grant from NASA and                                  and education - a place where science
    onc niillioii from the U S Department of                               researchers can become effectively
    Education to establish the Adler Center                                involved in education and public
    for Space Science Education (ACSSE).                                   outreach. The central component of
    This center will provide NASA with a                                   ACSSE is a new gallery, entirely
electronic, composed of an interactive           display       technology,     compelling
video production studio, a computer-             educational computer-based interactive
based classroom, and programmable                exhibits, uncannily realistic virtual
public exhibit space. It will act as a           reality experiences of the universe,
nexus     from     which    Adler     will       computer and video classrooms that are
disseminate the whole of its rich science        fed information through extremely
content through broadband distance               broad bandwidth networks from the rest
learning applications. Programs that             of the world and that can host events
emanate from the video studio will draw          that can be          sent electronically
upon the resources resulting from the            anywhere, classrooms that can be
AdlerRVASAIDepartment of Education               reconfigured into exhibit space, lecture
partnership utilizing Adler's unique             rooms,      videoconferencing    centers,
high-speed connectivity to the outside           virtual reality arenas.
world     to   improve science and
technology literacy for our targeted
audiences. The center will establish a
framework to improve students' ability
to make informed decisions regarding
science, math, and technology, issues
they will encounter throughout their
lives. Teachers will be provided with a
mechanism to support their classroom
instruction, advance their professional
 development, and network with their
colleagues. Through ACSSE, the Adler
 aims to engage members of school
 communities in active, contextual               An      almost    infinitely    malleable
 learning, providing them with a strong          electronic space, it will be driven by its
 foundation in science and technology            broad bandwidth connectivity. Adler
 and with the ability to enhance that            hosts the world, the world experiences
 foundation as lifelong learners. In doing       the rich science content of Adler, in real
 so Adler will be piloting a new role for        time at high quality: this is the concept
 museums in the formal educational               behind Cyberspace, the Programmable
 community.                                      Gallerv.
                                                 Constrained by surrounding exhibits,
CYBERSPACE, THE                                  this irregularly-shaped space is a
"PROGRAMMABLE" GALLERY                           modest 2,600 square feet. It is divided
The major portion of ACSSE is                    roughly into three areas: a video studio,
Cyberspace, a radical departure from             a computer-based classroom and exhibit
typical museum galleries. It will fuse all       space. They are designed so that they
the unique new potential that technology         can be closed off into discrete
enables into one spectacularly capable           classroom areas or opened up into
museum space. A logical extension of             additional gallery space, their electronic
all of our earlier efforts, all of its exhibit    components used for exhibitry when no
components are computer-based.                    formal program uses are scheduled.
 Imagine an entirely computer-based
 museum facility, filled with dazzling
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As you've seen, there have been so                        Cyberspace was entirely different.
many technical aspects to Cyberspace                      Because the whole point of the space
and it had taken so long to make them                     was that its content was completely
all happen, that initially our entire focus               electronically generated and would have
was on them. We assumed that when                         multiple themes and focuses over its
the gallery was built that we would be                    lifetime, it was the first gallery space at
able to craft content for it on an ongoing                Adler that was created without specific
basis as well as distance learning                        content in mind. Given the computer and
programs that take advantage of its                       communications basis of the space, the
connectivity. While I now have a good                     project director was myself, Adler's
feeling that we have a handle on content                  information system manager. Something
and program creation for the space, I'm                   not usually done in Adler gallery teams
of the opinion that these issues will turn                was the creation of a steering committee
out to have been the most difficult ones                  composed of a representative of the
and will have the most profound and                       three departments that would be most
 lasting effects on our institution.                      impacted by the gallery: Astronomy,
                                                          Education and Information Systems.
Skewing the Process
Adler, like many institutions, works in                   A typical gallery team at Adler would
teams. A typical team charged with the                    be responsible for the construction of
creation of a gallery would include an                    the gallery and the gallery's content, as
astronomer or historian, an educator, a                   in a typical gallery these are intimately
project manager, a production person (at                  intertwined. Since they are completely
Adler our production department houses                    separate in Cyberspace we realized that
much of our artistic and computer-based                   we would need two distinct teams: a
art staff) and others drawn in as needed                  construction team and a content team.
on an ad hoc basis. The astronomer or                     The construction team would exist for
historian served as the project director.                 the time it would take to build the
                                                          gallery; the content team would be
The subject matter of the gallery would                   ongoing throughout the life of the
have been decided on an institutional                     gallery (estimated to be three years).
basis previously, to fit the institutional                The organization looks like this:
themes that are planned for two or more
years in advance. Given that subject, the
astronomer (or historian if it was to be
an historical gallery) would write a
content resource document, more or less
the reference work for the gallery, a
concise overview of the latest scientific
knowledge regarding that topic. Their
peers would review this document
before being approved for the gallery
team. Using that document, the team
 would develop the goals and objectives
 of the exhibit and the education staff
 would begin crafting the programs to be
 created based on the gallery.
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                                                                      equipment room with all the rest of the
                                                                      exhibit computers.
                    Director
                                                                      The gallery will also contain four virtual
                                                                      reality stations, in this case Elumens
                                                                      Corporation Visionstation

                                                                      (www.elumens.com), in which computer
                   STEERING
                                                                      video output is projected onto a side
                  COMMITTEE:
                                                                      mounted 1.5-meter dome. It's a single-
                  Astronomer
                                                                      person      immersion virtual reality
                     Educator                                         experience.
                   Information
                   Systems




The construction team met weekly from
mid July 2000 through early March
200 1, finalizing the design and working                               The front multipurpose room can
with the fabrication company and                                       contain up to 16 columnar desks sunk
electronics consultant. Construction                                   into the floor in numerous orientations.
started mid-May 200 1, with physical                                   These desks will contain a flip-up 18"
completion of the space scheduled for                                  LCD screen, keyboard and trackpad,
mid-August 200 1.                                                      again driven by very capable rack-
                                                                       mounted computers located in a rear
Generating Content                                                     equipment room with all the rest of the
When complete, the gallery will have                                   exhibit computers. Three ceiling-
seventeen sophisticated versions of the                                mounted projectors will be able to
earlier "Visualization Station" concept.                               project a contiguous video strip across
In this iteration wc've gone back to the                               the front of the room. This room will be
original idea of a large graphics and                                  videoconferencing capable, both H.320
small text screens. The large displays are                             (ISDN-based) and H.323 (internet-
flat plasma displays, the small screens                                based).
are LCD screens. Each dual displayltext                                The rear distance-learning studio will
screen is also equipped with a trackpad                                house the same ceiling-mounted
which can be used or not (covered when                                 projection arrangement as well as the
not used) and the entire assembly has a                                 same videoconferencing capability. If
directional strip speaker below should                                  computers are ncccssary they won't be
sound be required. This entire functional                               floor-mounted ones but rather laptops
unit is driven by a very capable rack-                                  connected wirelessly to the network.
mounted computer located in a rcar                                      This room will have the advanced
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capability of serving as an access grid                             creating show content for the two
node, an advanced experiment in using                               Planetarium theaters that Adler has and
bandwidth to support human interaction                              very little of their time could be used for
via a network.                  (http://www-                        a large scale undertaking such as
jp.mcs.anl.gov/J/accessgrid~).                                      Cyberspace.
 Each combination plasma display1LCD
display could serve as a passive exhibit                               This was addressed in two ways. First,
 display device or, using the trackpad, an                             in order to organize the gallery content,
 interactive exhibit element. Each unit                                the gallery was divided into four areas:
 could use sound or not. Every display
 device in the gallery could take input not
 only from the individual internet-                                        1.    The News Center
                                                                           2.    Manned Space Exploration
 connected computer it was attached to                                     3.    The Sun-Earth Realm
 but from numerous other input devices                                     4.    Classroom Computer Activities
 that range from NASA TV from a
 satellite feed to a live feed from our own                            The steering committee along with the
 observatory telescope to incoming                                     Astronomy department decided the
 videoconferencing feeds. Therefore the                                general nature of content for each of the
 choices that the content group faced                                  individual exhibit components for the
  regarding what content to display were                               first exhibit iteration (i.e. plasma display
  fairly wide.                                                         number seven would be something
                                                                       called "the night sky" giving visitors
   Because each        individual plasma                               information on the celestial objects in
   displayILCD could host anything from a                              the current night sky).
   complex      computerized     interactive
   program to a video clip to a simple                                 Each of the four areas was assigned a
   graphics slideshow, each functional unit                            certain number of the plasma displays,
   would be required to have something                                 virtual reality exhibits and projectors.
   like a team working on its content. Yet                             Staff from the Astronomy and Education
   there were seventeen of these units                                 department were assigned to individual
   alone, not to mention the VR stations,                              plasma displays or other exhibit
   projection possibilities, computer-based                            elements so that each of the four areas
   desks in the front multifunction room                               had numerous "mini-teams" whose job it
   and so on. The Adler is not a large                                 was to decide the nature of the
   museum and the thought of full content                              experience of the public at that station.
   teams working on all the various                                    Each      mini-team     would    develop
   electronic possibilities of the gallery                             objectives for their exhibit component,
   seemed impractical. The more we                                     determine roughly how they wanted to
    considered it the more overwhelming                                present the information visually and
    the task of creating content for this                              storyboard it if possible. People would
    space appeared.                                                     be assigned to more than one mini-team.
    After numerous meetings, it was
    determined that the choke point for                                 Each of the four areas was assigned a
    gallery content creation would be the                               "producer", someone with previous
    lack of staff with sufficient computer                              production experience whose job it was
    graphics and programming skills. While                              to coordinate the areas content. Finally
    Adler does have a department of people                              all four producers reported to an art
      with these skills, they are all engaged in                        director whose job it was to advise
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everyone on art and design details and
to coordinate a consistency of look
throughout the gallery.



                                                     Art Director




                  o c e r
                  News area
                                     I                              Space Exp




                      teams                                                                      teams



                               Cyberspace Content Team Organization


Existing computer graphics expertise                                do this, much of our initial content will
was spread throughout the teams as                                  probably be web-based sine we have a
evenly as possible. We also looked at                               fair amount of in-house expertise here.
creative ways of getting the content off                            We hope to eventually grow to be able
the ground for the first pass. These range                          to    develop    all   content     within
from contracting out parts of the project                           Macromedia. Another agreement from
to looking to volunteer/internship help to                          early on was to try to use electronic
hiring additional staff to make up the                              content that we had previously
shortfall. Obviously each of these                                  developed. In the course of developing
choices    has    long-term      economic                           years of planetarium shows and
implications.                                                       previous exhibits there was a great deal
                                                                    of electronic content already available.
Also, it was agreed that the first attempt                          Because the virtual reality components
at gallery content would be at a fairly                             that we chose could show VR content
simplistic level and would grow in                                  from numerous different formats, we
complexity and sophistication as we                                  had the luxury of being able to pick and
went along. For instance, we agreed that                            choose the first round of VR content.
our ultimate aim was to standardize                                  Our production department was able to
computer-based content to be developed                               explore the complexity of moving VR
with the Macromedia platform of                                      content from our shows to the gallery
software. However, because we don't                                  VR stations. What this told us that the
 currently have enough people on staff to                            creation and development of VR
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content would          not     be      a    trivial
undertaking.

A WALK THROUGH CYBERSPACE
A visitor walks into the gallery and
immediately on their right sees a curved
wall lined with seven 37" plasma
display screens as described previously.
Above the plasma screens, LCD
projectors will display multiple images
side- by-side in a contiguous strip at
least forty feet long that can project
individual video streams or one
contiguous one. At the rear of this space
will be one of the Elumens virtual reality                     The entire time that you've been
stations. This area will become                                walking into the gallery you will have
something currently called the "News                           been aware of a room with glass walls
Center".      Breaking        space      or                    to your left. This would be the
Astronomical news items will be                                mul6function room. This room will
featured here as well as VR dements                            house sixteen desks with the flip-up 18"
relating to news stories. As an example,                       LCD displays and keyboard cabled
 as the International Space Station is                         remotely to rack-mounted computers.
 assembled and featured in our news                            As described previously these desks are
 space displays, you'll be able to navigate                    actually lightweight trays mounted on a
 through it in the VR Vision Station                           pedestal sunk into the floor that can be
 interactive. The plasma screens will                          removed and reconfigured as necessary,
 operate in both passive informational                         the electronics plugging into floor
 mode as well as interactive mode.                             outlets. Three huge projection screens
                                                               drop from the ceiling in front of the
The central exhibit area will contain                          glass walls. Three ceiling-mounted
 three of the plasmaltext screen stations                      projectors in the center of the room
 as well as a virtual reality station. This                    project content from any source at the
 area will concentrate on content relating                      facilitators discretion controlled through
 to a Sun-Earth theme, our currcnt                              an elcctronic podium. Tracking and still
 institutional emphasis. Continuing to the                      cameras allow this room to double as a
 left as one enters will take you to a space                    video studio. A Visionstation VR unit
 between the distance learning studio and                       sits in one corner of the classroom.
 the multifunction room. Because of the                         Glass doors close the room off into a
 glass walls and doors this space, though                       contained, discrete and functional
small, will not seem as enclosed as it is.                      classroom. With the doors h l l y opencd
I A ~ the end of the space will be two                          the room becomes an extension of
'computer stations and one of the                               exhibit space, with visitors able to either
 plasma/text stations. These units will                         work at the computer stations on
 house more in-depth information from                           various computer-based interactives and
 the News Ccntcr area.                                          web sites, or the room can serve as a
                                                                lecture center, with the projection
                                                                system serving as a multimedia source
                                                                for the lecturer. The rear exhibit portion
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of the gallery contains five plasmaltext                       Behind the video studio is a small
station as well as a virtual reality                           control room packed with monitors and
station. This area will concentrate                            equipment allowing the controller to
initially on content regarding manned                          control programs originating in either or
space exploration.                                             both of the two rooms. Additionally,
All gallery signage is electronic.                             there are numerous equipment racks, as
Throughout the space arc LCD text                              all the exhibit displays are driven by
screens of varying size explaining                             rack-mounted computers located here.
what's happening and showing a                                 Also located here are other input
schedule of events, so that visitors are                       dcvices for the displays, from DVD
always informed about what they are                            players to VHS players. Switching
secing and when they can expect to see                         audio and video equipment is rack-
certain events. The video studio is really                     mounted as is a network switch that
the heart of the gallery. It's almost                          underlies the connection capability of
identical in capability to Cyberspace in                       the entire space. Finally a feed from our
that it can house multiple students in a                       20" telescope observatory ends up here
distance-learning      videoconferencing                       as a potential video source into the
mode. The front of the room is equipped                        gallery.
with the large projection walls upon                             A massive switching matrix will allow
which three centrally-located ceiling-                          for any content-generating device
 mounted LCD projectors project.                                (computer, DVD, telescope, video feed
 Projection content is controlled through                       etc.) to be switched to any display in the
 the control podium. When not in use                            exhibit. This is one of the most crucial
 this room also can be opened up to be                          technical feature of thc gallery.
 an extension of the gallery space and
 when used as a classroom. Large                               Distance Learning Programs
 tempered glass doors enclose the room                         Much like other museums and cultural
 from visitors in the exhibit portion of                       institutions with videoconferencing
 the gallery. During programs visitors                         links, Adler has been exploring video
 will be able to watch the class in                            programs into the classroom. We believe
 progress.                                                     that this capability will soon be fairly
                                                               ubiquitous and available via broadband
                                                               Internet connections. Given that we
                                                               envision a very comprehensive use of
                                                               live and canned vidco programning
                                                               throughout the museum.

                                                                While the primary function of the
                                                                distance learning studio will be
                                                                originating these types of programs, we
                                                                made sure that we could use our existing
                                                                network infrastructure to shuttle video
                                                                around the entire museum. We want to
                                                                use the distance-learning studio as a
     The Distance-Learning Studio                               nexus from within which the entire
                                                                museum is made available to the world.
                                                                This not only includes all of our exhibit
                                                                galleries, but our collection (which like
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     most collections is mostly unavailable to                              execute this program. We would have to
     the public) and our staff.                                             be careful not to lock out schools
                                                                            without extensive financial resources.
      Our emphasis is here because we believe                               We envision a base level of curriculum
      that this video capability will soon                                  that any school could access, perhaps
      present     museums       and   cultural                              text-based lessons, some graphics, some
      institutions with a new role directly in                              canned video and an interactive session.
      formal education, that of augmenting the                              Those that were able to pay would get
      teacher.                                                              more interactivity with content experts,
                                                                            up to full real-time interactive classroom
           Throughout Illinois (and beyond) there's                          instruction. Schools and school districts
           a critical shortage of qualified science                         that we've discussed this idea with feel
           teachers. This is occurring at a time                            that the program as described would be
           when the state is raising its science                             of immense value and indicated a
           requirements for students. The Adler                              willingness to pay for such a program.
           and other science museums are centers                             This includes upper-level officials of the
           of rich world-class science content, yet                          Chicago Public School system. Clearly
           isolated from directly impacting science                          such a functioning program is a long
           education.                                                        way off. However, the technology and
                                                                              ubiquitous bandwidth necessary to make
           Adler's pilot distance learning program                            it happen is not, and given developments
           will create two to three-week slices of                            in the Internet, inevitable. Programs
           science curricula instruction, using an                            such as this would create an entirely new
           astronomy-related theme to teach basic                             and vital role for museums to directly
           science (as an example, telescopes to                              and strongly impact formal education.
           convey information about light and                                 There are 3,300+ potential schools to
           optics). Drawing upon the rich science                             work with in Illinois alone. Should this
           resources of the museum including our                              direction prove fruitful, one could
           PhD       astronomers,       we'll     use                         envision several of the type of video
           videoconferencing originating any and                              classrooms we've previously described
           everywhere in the museum, using the                                 working full-time. And once Internet I1
           equipment and facilities in the studio as                           takes    off,     instruction   wouldn't
           a nexus to send this programming into                               necessarily be limited to one state. One
           the classroom. Extensive evaluation                                 could envision particular museums
            would determine if this instruction is                             developing national and international
            effective and whether it enhances                                  reputations of excellence in classroom
            students test scores. If the results bear                          education.
            out the hypothesis, then the road would
            be open to assemble consortia of                                  NEW PROGRAMMATIC USES OF THE
            museums and cultural institutions, each                           SPACE
            contributing discrete portions into an                            Our first iteration of an exhibit in the
            year-long curriculum that could be sold                           space is a modest one, constrained by
            to schools and school districts on a                              the learning curve and the resources that
            sliding fee scale. This revenue stream                            we're able to bring to bear on content
            would be nothing that we would look to                            creation. However over the life of the
            get rich on but rather a steady source of                         gallery impressive new programs will be
             income to offset the cost of technology                          possible:
            and museum educators necessary to
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Remote Observing                                                 make them available over the internet
Something that we have a history of                              and via video technology to our various
doing is called remote observing. Here                           partners.
an astronomer or graduate student
literally controls a distant research                            Adler Courses
telescope explaining it for visitors. We                         The Adler Planetarium, because of our
have an arrangement with the Apache                              long-standing relationship with the
Point Observatory in New Mexico to do                            University of Chicago and Northwestern
this and have done so at length in the                           University has long been a home to adult
past. Cyberspace should allow us to do                           evening courses taught by world-famous
so on a scale not before seen. We are                            experts in various areas of Astronomy
building relationships      with    other                        and cosmology, including Steven
observatories     such     as     Yerkes                         Hawking twice previously. We're
Observatory in Wisconsin and Misado                              kicking off a program that expands the
Observatory in Japan and we hope                                 access~bility of this program to
eventually to be able to show a live                             universities and community colleges via
astronomical telescope feed from the                             video. One could come to the Adler to
night side of our planet during the day                          attend a course, or one could attend a
while the museum is open.                                        course      virtually  (but    no    less
                                                                 interactively) at a university or
Live Events                                                      community college close to you. In this
With our high bandwidth connectivity it                          way we hope to be able to reach an
will be possible to host live events at                          audience that normally          wouldn't
Adler that happen remotely. One such                             consider driving downtown to Adler and
example is that we're working with                               thus vastly extend the program's reach.
NASA to make happen is live NASA                                  We also hope to record these courses
events such as launches. We should be                             and begin archiving this crucial content
able to project these events on virtually                         which can be used later in the more
all exhibit displays, creating a "virtual                         structured formal classroom program
NASA" at Adler in Chicago. You'll be                              into the schools: lectures into schools
able to see everything from NASA                                  from world class (and world-famous)
launches to international space station                           lecturers!
activities to Mars landings, all at Adler
as it happens.                                                    CHALLENGES AND CONCLUSIONS
                                                                  Many challenges and questions remain
Additionally, we're exploring using                               in the ongoing operation of Cyberspace.
satellite transmissions to bring remote                           While the steering committee is
astronomical happenings back to Adler                             controlling and assigning the opening
live. The prototype for this is a total                           content of the gallery, how will this be
eclipse of thc sun in June of 2001 in                             controlled on an ongoing basis'? Will the
Africa. Adler is co-hosting a cruise to                           various content teams that are assembled
totality in the Mozambique channel, and                           to pull the gallery together remain static,
will be carrying satellite equipment to                           or will these teams change over time'?
videocast the eclipse live back to the                            How will ideas and thoughts regarding
museum. This is a prototype for the                               new ways to use and configure the
future when Cyberspace is complete.                               gallery be handled'? How often will the
Not only will we be able to host such                             content be changed'? What has priority,
cvents at Adler, but we'll be able to                             standard gallely content or live events?


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Will we rent this space out for private                        non-changeable exhibit.
event usage? How will we deal with
rapid computer obsolescence over time?                         Add to that the broadband connectivity
Will we have enough staff to continually                       of our connection to the outside world
create content over the life of the                            and now you've got a space that can
gallery?                                                       host live interactive events. We can act
                                                               as the Midwest hub of disseminating
These are just some of the questions                           NASA information by hosting a live
facing Adler now. What's certain is that                       launch and other events. The next best
four major departments of the museum                           thing to be in Florida for a launch might
have been impacted heavily and in a                            well be our gallery. My own personal
fundamental sense that many well                               goal given our NASA relationship is to
increase over time.                                            work toward hosting an interactive video
                                                               question and answer session between
Further, 1 view Cyberspace as a pilot for                      kids in local schools and space station
what our entire museum could become:                           personnel via Adler's gallery.
a highly interactive and changeable
environment that would always host the                          If there is a downside to all this it's
latest up-to-date information and would                         twofold: the space will be initially
never be the same each time you came                            expensive (this will be Adler's most
through. While not advocating making                            expensive gallery to date).           More
the entire museum electronic, I feel that                       importantly, as we've seen the space
each gallery could be augmented by a                            will be extremely staff-intensive over
certain proportion of electronic displays                       the life of the gallery. We will have an
which would allow the display of a                              ongoing content committee tasked to
depth of content over the life of the                           coordinate       and     deliver    content
gallery not possible with our current                           throughout the life of the gallery.
static galleries. Should Adler adopt                            Numerous skills will be necessary to
something like this however, we're                              operate the space, from graphics artists
much more aware now of the staffing                              to computer programmers & support
resources that would be needed to make                           technicians to educators to astronomers
 this work. This could also be one view                          to more than the standard number of
 for other museums in the future.                                guards. Currently 3.5 full-time jobs will
                                                                 be devoted to this space through the
 I11 any case, what we'll have when the                          gallery's life and this is so crucial to its
 gallery opens to the public in autumn                           successful operation that it's key in our
 2001 will be an exhibit that never goes                         funding strategy. It is our feeling
 out of date. Visitors can be assured of                         however that and the broadband and
 receiving      the     most     up-to-date                      virtual-reality-enhanced             visitor
 information possible. Since the content                         experience far overshadows anything
 can and will change over time they can                           else we'd be able to do in that same
 be assured that in repeated visits no two                        space. We feel that not only will we be
 walks through the gallery will be the                            able to pilot a new kind of gallery space
  same. Because of this capability over the                       for the informal learning of our through-
  life of the space a huge array of content                       the-door visitors but will also be able to
  can be represented to the visitor in far                        pioneer a method of positively
  greater depth and breadth, much more                            enhancing foimal education while
 than one could ever do in a standard                            providing a constant revenue stream to
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keep the process alive. This is an
admittedly ambitious goal but one that
we've invested a great deal of work in so
far.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenneth Kobus has worked at the
Adler since 1993 as the Information
Systems manager, overseeing all aspects
of Adler's computer environment. He
has participated in numerous gallery
project teams, worked on distance
learning programs, and has been part of
a number of Adler long range planning
groups. Prior to the Planetarium, he
worked at a Northwestern University.
Mr. Kobus has a Masters degree in
Cultural       Anthropology       from
Northwestern University.
E-mail: kkobus@adlernet.org

								
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